Volume 51 Number 37
                    Produced: Mon Feb 27  5:09:58 EST 2006

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Menopause = Mandatory Divorce?
Simchat Bat (2)
         [Martin Stern, Anonymous]
Temp to Perm (3)
         [Carl A. Singer, Martin Stern, Tzvi Stein]
Women's Bodies and Childbearing and Decisions...
         [Leah S. Gordon]


From: Anonymous
Date: Sat, 25 Feb 2006 21:23:29 -0500
Subject: Menopause = Mandatory Divorce?

An anonymous poster responded as follows to Tzvi Stein's "temp to perm"
post that described a woman given a short-term heter to use an IUD but
not prepared to conceive again as of the end of the time-limited heter:

>  Does one divorce a woman who has given them several children because
>she can't handle another child at the exact ruling of when the IUD was
>to be removed?  [...] Women are not animals who conceive constantly nor
>are they breeding machines.

Precisely.  Nor should they be held to a standard of maximizing baby
production at all costs, both because they have no halachic obligation,
and because, as the anonymous poster pointed out elsewhere in his or her
post, gestation and birthing are not the end of the story.  Parents,
both mothers and fathers, have to have the physical, emotional, and
material wherewithal to *parent* their offspring, *all* their offspring,
adequately, which is generally at least an 18- to 20-year commitment and
often much longer (consider the increasingly generalized entitlements to
kollel support and such like).

In a partly related matter, I'm hearing increasingly among my friends
and acquaintances of husbands who divorce their wives immediately upon
realizing that wives have hit menopause, or have to undergo hysterectomy
for medical reasons, and, therefore, bederech hateva (in the natural
course of events), cannot be expected to produce more offspring.  In the
cases of which I'm thinking, wives have produced variable numbers of
offspring (maximum, I believe, was 12).  At least one of these husbands
has claimed that his "rebbe" insisted he couldn't stay, let alone
continue a normal sexual relationship, with a wife who would "bear" no
more and must seek a new, young, expectably highly fertile wife with
whom to continue to procreate as long as he is alive and physically
capable.  Granted, I'm hearing this second- or third-hand, but
apparently the rebbe in question cited a ruling, supposedly from the
Rambam (I don't have more detailed bibliographic information), that it
is never permissible not to be trying as aggressively as possible, by
all halachically permissible means, to procreate.

I realize full well that the husbands in question might be using the
fact that wives are no longer fertile as a pretext for leaving marriages
they wanted to leave for other reasons or nonreasons.  However, if in
fact there is a growing body of rabbinic opinion that it is unthinkable
for marriages to continue when procreation is no longer possible, it
says something distinctly scary about where the Torah-observant world is
likely to be headed.

Is there *any* plausible line of halachic argument that could reasonably
be interpreted to conclude, under *any* set of circumstances, that
menopause, either natural or surgically induced, must mean the end of a


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, 26 Feb 2006 10:18:20 +0000
Subject: Re: Simchat Bat

On Thu, 23 Feb 2006 19:30:14, Shoshana L. Boublil <toramada@...>

> It is the custom of the Lybian and the Italian-Livorno communities to
> have both a Zeved HaBat when a daughter is born ...
> It is a Se'udat Hodaya on the birth of a girl.
> It used to be held 80 days after the birth, so that it wouldn't be that
> "the guests are happy, but the parents are not...".

This reason is strange since it is the one given for a mother to finish
her tum'at leidah and commence her yemei dam tohar, when mide'oraita she
is permitted to her husband, seven days after the birth of a boy, in
time for his brit milah, as opposed to fourteen after the birth of a
girl. The 40 or 80 days only prevent her from eating terumah and kodshim
and were not considered to impair their happiness.

Martin Stern

From: Anonymous
Date: Sun, 26 Feb 2006 14:44:13 -0500
Subject: Simchat Bat

I'd like to thank the various people on the list that have sent in
responses on this topic. I'd like to try and better explain where I'm
coming from in terms of the original question. I need to add some
background detail to the situation.

In the situation at hand, the mother of the baby is a long time friend
of my wife (who was the original source of the first anonymous posting,
but then put in the form it went in by me, who is the one with concern
with the situation) back from early grade school. She went to an
orthodox day school, so has a basic knowledge of traditional Jewish
practice, but currently has a somewhat eclectic version of observance /
non-observance.  She keeps the house strictly kosher to orthodox
standards, but does not keep Shabbat. She very definitely has a major
issue with the gender differentiation that is mandated within Orthodox
Judaism. In her view, a girl should get "identical" treatment, to the
extent possible, as a boy.  Therefore, if there is a ritual for a boy,
she wants to have the same for the girl. An added point might be that to
the extent possible, she stills wants to do this within the context of
an Orthodox auspices. She wants the Orthodox rabbi to be the one
"presiding" and she wants me, as both the husband of her oldest friend
and her usual source of Jewish knowledge, to play an integral part in
the ceremony.

This is where my discomfort arises. If I was just attending, since as a
number of people have pointed out, there is little of actual Halachic
concern (the major being possible brachot being recited where there is
no reason to recite them), I might think that what she was doing was
silly but would probably not say much and go along with it. However, as
she wants me "front and center" that feels too much to me as my
validating her agenda, which I do not agree with. Especially in this
case, where I think there are some authentic Jewish traditions focused
on celebrating a girl child, I feel that if I will take a active role,
it should be for a more authentic experience. My hope is that by pulling
some of the information I get from the group, I can come up with a
ceremony that I can present as an alternate to taking the ceremony of
the Bris and replacing "he" with "she" and the physical act of the bris
with wrapping the baby in a Talit (which is what I think she is
currently planning).

Currently, my feeling is that if I cannot convince her to change, I
would rather just be an attendee and not take one of the active
roles. However, I know that this will place a strain on her relationship
with my wife. So I remain torn, and hope I can implement at least some

 Again, thanks to the group for letting me work my way through my
feelings on this issue.


From: Carl A. Singer <casinger@...>
Date: Sat, 25 Feb 2006 21:12:11 -0500
Subject: Temp to Perm

Re: woman who wishes to continue birth control (in this case an IUD)
despite her husband not having fulfilled mitzvah of having children of
each gender.

I think

(a) it's  none of my business and

(b) since this woman (and presumably her husband) asked their Rav for a
psak to start birth control I see no reason that they shouldn't ask
their Rav for a psak re: extending it -- thus they can discuss the
implications re: her mental and physical health, her husband's mizvah
"requirements" as well as their relationship.

There are no-doubt women who have jeopardized their health having baby
after baby in an attempt to have one of the other gender (for their
husband ?)  For example, how many C-sections should a woman endure?

None of this is black-and-white -- hence the need to consult with a Rav
and perhaps a physician, also.

Carl Singer

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, 26 Feb 2006 10:40:29 +0000
Subject: Re: Temp to Perm

On Thu, 23 Feb 2006 13:43:23 -0500, Bernard Raab <beraab@...> wrote:

> I am sure the women on this list will have much to say about this,
> deservedly. I would simply point out that the position of Beit Shammai
> on this matter is that you have fulfilled the mitzvah with two boys. The
> Beit Hillel position is to require at least one child of each gender.
> While we pasken, as usual, according to Beit Hillel, and the odds
> strongly favor the BH position, there is the BS position to consider as
> well. 

Once the halachah is fixed according to Beit Hillel, the position of
Beit Shammai is always completely ignored (einah mishnah) so I am afraid
Bernard is not correct this time. Whether it can be used as a snif
(supporting argument) in cases of great need requires a thoroughly
competent moreh hora'ah and is not really a suitable topic for
discussion on mail-jewish (or even female-jewish!)

On Thu, 23 Feb 2006 14:32:04 +0200, Perry Zamek <perryza@...>

> I find the case strange, for one reason - it seems inconsistent, on the
> part of the wife, to go to the trouble of asking for a psak when she
> wanted to use the IUD as a temporary measure, yet not to ask for a psak
> when she wished to continue its use.
>> What is the halachic situation of the husband?  Does his wife's
>> behavior make the husband exempt from Pru Urvu?  Does it make marital
>> relations with her an aveira?  Is he obligated to divorce her?
> 2. I can't see why he would be obligated to divorce her - *she* has no
> obligation of Pru Urvu,

Since the time of the cherem of Rabbeinu Gershom preventing a man from
taking a second wife it is difficult to see why a married woman has no
obligation of Pru Urvu, perhaps not on quite the same level as her
husband since she can voluntarily be divorced. Otherwise she is, in
effect, preventing him from fulfilling his obligations. While a clearly
temporary 'break' might be acceptable, Tsvi was hinting at something
more indefinite.  That she appears to refuse to ask for a new psak seems
to indicate that she is not prepared to act in consonance with
halachah. Is this so different from a wife who is prepared to feed her
husband food he considers (as a chumra) forbidden?

> Is the husband exempt from the mitzva? Not really, but, realistically
> speaking, there are many families in which, for whatever reason, there
> are only boys or only girls. What this means is that, despite the
> husband's best intentions, he has not fulfilled the technical
> requirements for Pru Urvu. Are these families lesser in status in the
> eyes of halacha? I strongly doubt it.

The mitsvah of Pru Urvu is to try to have children, at least one of each
sex, not to actually do so, which is in the hands of the Almighty. So
long as one continues to have marital relations one cannot be held to be
at fault.

Martin Stern

From: <tzvi.stein@...> (Tzvi Stein)
Date: Sun, 26 Feb 2006 12:37:50 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Re: Temp to Perm

>From: Perry Zamek <perryza@...>
>I find the case strange, for one reason - it seems inconsistent, on the
>part of the wife, to go to the trouble of asking for a psak when she
>wanted to use the IUD as a temporary measure, yet not to ask for a psak
>when she wished to continue its use.

Welcome to the real world.  People behave inconsistently with their
previous behavior, especially when (a) time has passed and (b) they have
a conflict between religious commitment and personal desire.

>>What is the halachic situation of the husband?  Does his wife's
>>behavior make the husband exempt from Piru Irvu?  Does it make marital
>>relations with her an aveira?  Is he obligated to divorce her?
>Without being a posek, I would answer the last two questions in the
>1. There are two reasons for marital relations - one is for procreation,
>and the other is to satisfy the wife's desire/need for intimacy. These
>are independent of each other. To not have relations with her could be
>possible grounds for her to demand a get.

Let's say, the second reason does not apply in this case, which leaves
no reason if she is on permenent birth control.  Any my point was that
perhaps the presense of unauthorized birth control makes his act of
relations an aveira, because he is knowingly and actively participating
in the birth control.

>2. I can't see why he would be obligated to divorce her - *she* has no
>obligation of Pru Urvu, and there is always the possibility of her
>changing her mind, thereby affording him the opportunity to try again to
>fulfill the mitzva.

*Her* lack of obligation would not seem to be relevant.  I am asking
about *his* obligation.  And his relying on someone else to eventually
change their mind does not seem like a serious intention to fulfill a
mitzva on his part.

>Regarding the first question:
>3. Is the husband exempt from the mitzva? Not really, but, realistically
>speaking, there are many families in which, for whatever reason, there
>are only boys or only girls. What this means is that, despite the
>husband's best intentions, he has not fulfilled the technical
>requirements for Pru Urvu. 

You can't compare those cases.  In the case under discussion, the cause
is known.


From: Leah S. Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Sun, 26 Feb 2006 03:41:21 -0800
Subject: Women's Bodies and Childbearing and Decisions...

It will surprise no one on M.J that I feel the need to state my opinion
regarding the woman who, desperate for a break from constant
childbearing, kept her IUD in "too long".

First, let me second the responder who noted that no IUD is "permanent".
It has to be removed (or for that matter inserted) by a medical
professional, every few years depending on the type of IUD.  Also,
IUD's, while one of the more reliable forms of birth control, are not
completely infallible and do not block the sperm getting to the woman.

In fact, that is why a heter was presumably given in the first place,
i.e. because it wasn't a real barrier from the husband's perspective.
After all, the heter wasn't for condoms.  So there is probably halakha
on which to rely for using an IUD for as long as the woman does not feel
she can handle a pregnancy.  I will let others who are more educated on
the halakha bring sources for this.

Certainly, from my own education I remember that the mitzvah of pru-urvu
is on the man, precisely because pregnancy/birth can be so dangerous for
the woman.  When you add in the fact that any couple frum enough to be
asking a rabbi before using birth control, is probably very conservative
about parental roles, you have to consider that this woman is probably
also caring for multiple children with little support/help, and she
really is the one who can determine whether another pregnancy is
appropriate or not.

Furthermore, and to me more importantly, this whole situation seems
barbaric.  Since when would a woman's body be up for grabs for any
pregnancy at any time, at the whim of a group of men (husband, rabbi,
doctor, mailing list discussing this)?  I generally agree with the line
of reasoning that if a woman cannot control her own reproductive
choices, then that situation is tantamount to slavery.

Having children is wonderful, and perhaps the most significant thing
that a person can do in life.  It is also very important culturally and
religiously.  However, it is an extremely individual process to figure
out how many children are possible/desirable to conceive.  Things don't
always work out with these plans, and there is a great deal of pain and
suffering when couples have "too few" or "too many" children.  But here
is a couple where they have found a working solution for the time being
- why in the world would anyone mess with that?  And whose right would
it be to do so??

Leah Sarah Reingold Gordon


End of Volume 51 Issue 37